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Nikola Karabatic, who scored seven goals on the day, tries to pull away from a pair of defenders. / VICTOR SALGADO-FCB

FC Barcelona, 38

Naturhouse La Rioja, 28

FC Barcelona: De Vargas (1), Sorhaindo (1), Sarmiento (4), Gurbindo (1), Sigurdsson (3), Karabatic (7), Lazarov (8) –starting seven– Noddesbo (6), Victor Tomàs (3), Entrerríos (1), Saric (-), Rutenka (1), Viran Morros (-), Víctor Sáez (1), Jallouz (1)

Naturhouse La Rioja: Jorge Gómez (-), Miguel Sánchez -(), Luisfe (2), Garabaya (2), Pedro Rodríguez (3), Ángel Fernández (2), Javier García (4) –starting seven– Juanín Garcia (2), Aguinagalde (-), Vigo (2), Stenmalm (6), Rocas (2), Cacheda (1), Jonovski (-), Romero (-), Eilert (2)

Referees: Oscar Raluy and Ángel Sabroso

Scoring by five-minute intervals: 2-2 / 6-3 / 11-6 / 15-8 / 17-10 / 19-13 (half-time) 20-15 / 24-17 / 26-19 / 30-21 / 34-24 /38-28

Attendance: 1,852

FC Barcelona have the league title within reach after a new victory this Saturday over Naturhouse La Rioja. Xavi Pascual’s squad can be proclaimed champions next Saturday if they win at Zamora. But before that the team must travel to Croatia to face the RK Zagreb in the first leg of the European Cup quarter-finals.

The visitors took command early on in the game with scores on their first two possessions while keeping Barça off the scoreboard, but the Catalans answered with six of their own. Outstanding goalkeeping by Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas was a catalyst for a slew of direct goal-to-goal scores. By the 20th minute Barça had opened up a big 15–7 lead on their way to a 19–13 lead at the break.

La Rioja closed the gap to within three points after the intermission but Barça stomped on the gas with five unanswered goals to go back up by eight at 25–17. Rotating players in and out to keep fresh legs on the floor paid dividends for the hosts as they were able to keep a solid lead on the way to a 38–28 final score, which leaves them just two points away from securing the league crown.


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